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Salute to the Women in Uniform

American women played important roles during World War II, both at home and in uniform. Not only did they give their sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers to the war effort, they gave their time, energy, and some even gave their lives.

The utilization of women in an organization such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) offered a “golden opportunity” to solve manpower shortages. So recognizable was the opportunity that Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall himself told the War Department in November 1941, “I want a women’s corps right away, and I don’t want any excuses!” Urgent wartime demands necessitated the use of all able, willing citizens, regardless of gender. In recruiting women, the Army assured them that they would be doing “unusual and exciting work” and that their service “in making available technically trained men for combat service will be of great value in winning the war.”

Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (R-MA) introduced a bill to establish the WAAC on 28 May 1941. She cited two rationales for such an organization: to ease the shortage of able-bodied men and “to answer an undeniable demand from American women that they be permitted to serve their country, together with the men of America, to protect and defend their cherished freedoms and democratic principles and ideals.” WAAC/WAC veterans later recalled this strong desire to be of service. Mary Robinson, for example, said, “I just thought it was the sensible thing to do. The British had done it in two wars.”

The 77th Congress eventually did establish the WAAC with Public Law (PL) 77-554 on 14 May 1942, after much heated debate.

 

Nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform, both at home and abroad, volunteering for the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs, later renamed the Women’s Army Corps), the Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), the Army Nurses Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corps. General Eisenhower felt that he could not win the war without the aid of the women in uniform. “The contribution of the women of America, whether on the farm or in the factory or in uniform, to D-Day was a sine qua non of the invasion effort.” 

Women in uniform took office and clerical jobs in the armed forces in order to free men to fight. They also drove trucks, repaired airplanes, worked as laboratory technicians, rigged parachutes, served as radio operators, analyzed photographs, flew military aircraft across the country, test-flew newly repaired planes, and even trained anti-aircraft artillery gunners by acting as flying targets. Some women served near the front lines in the Army Nurse Corps, where 16 were killed as a result of direct enemy fire. Sixty-eight American service women were captured as POWs in the Philippines. More than 1,600 nurses were decorated for bravery under fire and meritorious service, and 565 WACs in the Pacific Theater won combat decorations. Nurses were in Normandy on D-plus-four.

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At the war’s end, even though a majority of women surveyed reported wanted to keep their jobs, many were forced out by men returning home and by the downturn in demand for war materials. Women veterans encountered roadblocks when they tried to take advantage of benefit programs for veterans, like the G.I. Bill. The nation that needed their help in a time of crisis, it seems, was not yet ready for the greater social equality that would slowly come in the decades to follow.

Women today still proudly wear a uniform, as demonstrated by our very own fellow blogger, Cindy Bruchman, seen here after she graduated boot camp!!

Cindy Bruchman, US Navy

 

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Current – 14 August – National Code Talkers Day

Code talkers’ Monument

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Jessie Adams (100) – Riverdale, UT; US Army WAC, WWII, PTO, nurse

Vera Bernard – Ridgewood, CAN; RC Womens Army, WWII

London Monument to the Women of WWII

Linda Dietsche – Elmira, NY; US Army, Vietnam, Captain (Ret. 20 y.), nurse

Valerie Ferguson – Waikato, NZ; QSM WAAC # 809924, WWII, Northern Signals, 9th Regiment

Eileen “Kelly” Finch – Brighton, IL; US Navy, SeaBee

Barbara Graham – Philadelphia, PA; US Navy, Korea, nurse

Patricia Hamlin – Seattle, WA; US Navy WAVE, WWII, machinist

Lottie Manley – Hughesville, PA; US Coast Guard

Winifred Pickering – Lebanon, ME; US Navy, WWII

Judy Terry – Brookhaven, MS; US Army, nurse

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Australian Troops: Wewak,New Guinea

Painting of Aussies in New Guinea, artist unknown

I hope many of you remember the battles that were started for liberating New Guinea back at the original stage of the Pacific War – at this point – they were still going on.

The operations were characterized by prolonged small-scale patrolling with small-scale company attacks. Progress was slowed by the difficulties of transporting supplies overland or by barge and the flash flooding of a number of the rivers the Australians had to cross. In one incident, seven men from the 2/3rd Battalion drowned in the swollen waters of the Danmap River which had risen suddenly after a torrential downpour. After Dogreto Bay was occupied, the supply problems eased somewhat.

Wewak, New Guinea map

On 16 March 1945, the airfields at But and Dagua on the coast were occupied, although fighting continued further inland from there over the course of the following fortnight. On 25 March, Lieutenant Albert Chowne, a platoon commander from the Australian 2/2nd Battalion led an attack on a Japanese position that was holding up the advance on Wewak. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Albert Chowne

In the Torricelli Mountains the 17th Brigade continued its advance against stubborn Japanese defense. Nevertheless, by 23 April 1945 they had secured Maprik. The fall of Maprik allowed the Australians to begin constructing an airfield 8 miles (13 km) away at Hayfield, and this was completed on 14 May allowing reinforcements and supplies to be flown in.

Elsewhere the 19th Brigade had begun its assault on Wewak in early May. HMAS Hobart, Arunta, Warramunga, Swan and HMS Newfoundland (of the British Pacific Fleet) as well as the RAAF bombarded the Wewak defenses. On 11 May, a landing at Dove Bay by Farida Force was undertaken to encircle Wewak and prevent the escape of its garrison. Wewak fell on the same day, as the 19th Brigade occupied its airfield.

HMAS Warramunga

The fighting around Wewak airfield continued until 15 May, however, when men from the 2/4th Battalion, with armoured support, attacked Japanese positions overlooking the airstrip. It was during this attack that Private Edward Kenna carried out the deeds that led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Edward Kenna

Following this, the remaining Japanese in the area withdrew into the Prince Alexander Mountains to the south of Wewak. To counter this, the 16th Brigade was dispatched to follow them up, and push them towards the 17th Brigade which advanced towards the east towards Maprik.

Australian 2/3 Battalion at memorial for fallen comrades, New Guinea 1945

These operations continued until 11 August, by which time the 16th Brigade had reached Numoikum, about 23 kilometres (14 mi) from Wewak, while the 17th Brigade had captured Kairivu, 24 kilometres (15 mi) from Wewak. At this stage, word was received that the Japanese government had begun discussing terms for a possible surrender and so offensive operations were brought to a halt.

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Military Humor – 

‘Psst. It’s okay in here, but don’t go around calling $690 billion ‘chump change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Philip Barbary – Murray Valley, AUS; Australian Army # 45018, Vietnam, 104 Signal Squadron

Robert Costello – Newcastle, AUS; Australian Army, Vietnam

Robert Forstburg – Upper Darby, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 101st Airborne Division

Ralph Regis Giles – Lowell, MA; US Army, Korea, KIA

Gordon Herrick – Rochester, NY; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Glen McGraw – Centerville, IN; US Army, WWII

Eric Rapps – ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, 8th Army

Doris Sherman (101) – Como, AUS; Royal Navy, WWII, ETO & PTO, Chief Petty Officer, nurse

Betty Tallarico – Dorothy, WV; Civilian, US Navy draftsman

Geoffrey ‘Boy’ Wellum – Cornwall, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, 65th Squadron, Distinguished Flying Cross

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Japanese Balloon Bombs hit USA & Canada

Avenging the Doolittle Raids – Project Fugo

November 1944 –  Young Japanese girls wore headbands that designated them as Special Attack Force members. Daily they would recite the Imperial Precepts for Soldiers and Sailors before they began a twelve-hour shift in a makeshift factory in Kokura, Japan. Here they were producing 40 foot balloons to carry a bomb package across the ocean as they were released to drift on the Pacific jet stream.

A total of approximately 9,300 of these weapons were made and about 342 reached land, some as far east as Ontario, Michigan and Nebraska. Some were shot down or caused minor injuries and one hit a powerline of the nuclear weapons plant at Hanford, Washington.

Three days before the end of World War II in Europe and just three months before the Japanese surrendered, spinning shards of metal ripped into the tall pine trees, burrowing holes into bark and tearing needles from branches outside the tiny logging community of Bly, Oregon. The nerve-shattering echo of an exploding bomb rolled across the mountain landscape. When it was over, a lone figure—Archie Mitchell, a young, bespectacled clergyman—stood over six dead bodies strewn across the scorched earth. One of the victims was Elsie Mitchell, the minister’s pregnant wife. The rest were children. Four of the children—Jay Gifford, Eddie Engen, Dick Patzke, and Sherman Shoeman died instantly; Joan Patzke, 13 years old, initially survived the explosion but succumbed to her injuries shortly afterward.

Rev. Archie Mitchell and his wife, Elsie

Forestry workers were running a grader nearby when the force of the explosion blew one of them off the equipment. Another dashed to the nearby telephone office, where Cora Conner was running the town’s two-line exchange that day. “He had me place a call to the naval base in nearby Lakeview, the closest military installation to our town,” recalls Conner. “He told them that there had been an explosion and people had been killed.”

Within 45 minutes, a government vehicle roared to a stop in front of the telephone shack. A military intelligence officer scrambled out of the car and joined Conner inside. “He warned me not to say anything,” Conner says. “I was not to accept any calls except military ones, nor was I allowed to send out any information.” The rest of the day proved difficult, as Conner struggled with lumber companies and angry locals who had been stripped of their phone privileges without explanation.

The U.S. government immediately shrouded the event in secrecy, labeling the six deaths as occurring from an “unannounced cause.” But in the close-knit atmosphere of Bly, many of the locals had already learned the truth: Elsie Mitchell and the five children were victims of an enemy balloon bomb, held aloft by a gigantic hydrogen-filled sphere and whisked from Japan to the western seaboard of the United States. The contraption had alighted on Gearhart Mountain, where it lay in wait until the fateful day when it found its victims—the only deaths from enemy attack within the continental United States during World War II.

bomb map

To help avoid similar tragedies, the government lifted the media blackout. In late May 1945, the headquarters of Western Defense Command, based at the Presidio in San Francisco, issued a cautious message entitled “Japanese Balloon Information Bulletin No. 1.” In an effort to avoid a media frenzy and quell public paranoia, the document was to be read aloud to small gatherings “such as school children assembled in groups.

Preferably not more than 50 in a group and Boy Scout troops.” The bulletin warned that many hundreds of Japanese balloons were reaching American and Canadian airspace. 

Balloon bombs

 For Archie Mitchell, who lost his wife, unborn child, and five members of his church on that fateful day in 1945, life eventually resumed its course. He remarried and in 1947 moved to Southeast Asia to continue the missionary work that inspired him. Unfortunately, fate would deal him yet another blow. On June 1, 1962, a wire report brought his name back into the news: “Today word came from South Vietnam that three Americans had been kidnapped by Communist guerrillas. One of them is Reverend Archie E. Mitchell, a former pastor at Bly in southeast Oregon.” Mitchell was never heard from again.

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Today’s Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would you finish this caption?

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Farewell Salutes –

J.R. Brown – Henryetta, OK; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 waist gunner, 2nd Bombardment Squadron

Adrian Cronauer – Troutsville, VA; US Air Force, Vietnam, (Armed Forces Radio D.J.), / DOD official

Steve Ditko – Johnstown, PA; US Army, (cartoonist)

Brian Dutton – UK; Royal Navy, Falklands, Lt.Commander, mine clearance expert

Robert Hagan Sr. – PA; US Air Force, Captain, pilot

Homer Myles – Dermott, AR; US Army, WWII & Korea

Paul Racicot – Detroit, MI; US Navy, WWII

Joseph Stanhope – Berlin, NH; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

James Shaw – Baird, TX; USMC, WWII, PTO, Korea, Major

Dale Wilson – Des moines, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, LT, B-25 pilot, KIA (MIA)

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Gurkha Soldier – 13 May 1945

The 4th Gurkhas at kit inspection

Never mess with a Gurkha. Not everyone knows this, but then again, many people don’t know what a Gurkha/Gorkha is. Gurkhas were a branch of troops from Nepal who historically served with the British army and now serve around the world. Gurkha troops served admirably during WWI, winning nearly 2,000 awards for bravery serving in virtually every theatre of the war.

In WWII, the Japanese Empire spread through Asia and the Pacific. Americans mostly recall the island hopping and battles over patches of turf like Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. The British fight (supported by China and some Americans) against Japan centered around Burma (Myanmar) and was a terrible slugfest in the depths of the South Asian jungles.

The Gurkhas were a major force for the British in the Burma campaign and on May 13th, 1945, five days after victory in Europe, the Gurkhas would face intense Japanese assaults. Lachhiman Gurung and his detachment manned the forward-most position on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.

A little after one in the morning the Japanese led a furious assault with around 200 men. The attack was aimed at Gurung’s position as he and his comrades held a hill that would give the Japanese sweeping views and attack lanes to the rear of British positions.

Type-97 Japanese grenade

The Japanese started their assault by tossing grenades into the foxhole of Gurung. Gurung responded by calmly grabbing the grenades and tossing them back. After a couple of times doing this, Gurung’s luck ran out as a grenade exploded in his right hand as he was trying to throw it away.

The blast took off Gurung’s fingers and most of his hand. It fractured several bones in his right arm and left shrapnel wounds in his right leg and face, damaging his eye. Gurung’s comrades were completely incapacitated by the blast, and so the defense fell to Gurung.

He brought up his rifle with his left arm and gunned down the advancing Japanese, even reloading with his left hand. Try reloading a rifle with your non-dominate hand, it’s quite difficult, even without life-threatening wounds.

Bleeding profusely in the middle of the night, Gurung held off sporadic assaults for four hours. As the sun rose, the Japanese assault faded away. Of the approximately 200 Japanese attackers, 87 of them were dead, with 31 of them laying in the immediate vicinity of Gurung’s location.

garrison hill during advancement

Gurung was immediately hospitalized where he would eventually lose his right eye. His right arm was saved, but he lost most of the use of his right hand. He would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

Gurung still wanted to serve and was allowed to return to his unit, staying with them through the liberation of India in 1947. He retired shortly after to work on a farm in his native Nepal.

Gurung had five children and eventually moved to London where he would pass away from pneumonia in 2010. The Gurkhas again served in nearly every theatre of the world war, earning close to 3,000 awards for bravery.

The Gurkhas were known for outstanding bravery in battle and their use of the fearsome Kukri blade as a utility knife and in battle.

Sir Ralph Turner, a well-known British professor, had this to say about the Gurkhas: “Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last, your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.”

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Military Humor – CBI Roundup style – 

WACs Wanted – 2 to 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Leonard Bellis – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Captain

James Brook – OR; US Navy, WWII, pilot, / FBI

Charles H. Daman – Coeur d’Arlene, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, SSgt., nose gunner, KIA

Thaylon Hobbs – Logan, UT; US Navy, WWII

Charles “Bud” Jenkins – Fayetteville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Pfc., 307th A/B Engineers/82nd Airborne Div., KIA

Robert McCooley – Patterson, NJ; US Navy, Cuban Missile Crisis

Frank Perry – San Leandro, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Robert Rusello – Massena, NY; US Army, 221 Signal Corps

John Stormer – Altoona, PA; US Air Force, historian, / (author)

Max Tadlock – Toledo, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot

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OSS in the C.B.I. – 1945

In the book, “A COVERT AFFAIR”, Jennet Conant follows the OSS detachments that operated in the CBI Theater.  These members of the forerunner of the CIA included Elizabeth (Betty) MacDonald, her future husband Frederick MacIntosh, Julia McWilliams and her future husband Paul Child, and many others.

From time to time, the OSS teams would report armed clashes in the area (China) as local factions jockeyed for position, “The warlords were always shooting at each other,” recalled Betty, “But we never really felt scared.  We had pretty good protection, and the Flying Tigers kept the Japanese at bay.”

Betty MacDonald w/ colleagues in the doorway of the flooded MO print shop during the 1945 flood in Kumming. The fortified walls around the outpost made the OSS compound a lagoon.

Betty also reported, “the Chinese never followed the rules.  Smuggling was a way of life.  They brazenly peddle state secrets and are equally overt about trading everything from information to arms with  the Japanese.  Everything is for sale.”

Chiang’s people had to approve any proposed OSS operation.  Paul Child said, “The warp and woof of war in China is complex beyond belief.  The inner workings, the who-influences-who, the deals, the sleights of hand, the incredible chicaneries, the artistic venalities, the machinations and the briberies.

Julia Child & others of the OSS

“Some facts are so incredibly romantic and sinister that only hearing hundreds of verbal reports from the mouths of horses themselves finally convinces me of the dreadful reality of the under-the-sea war – the war of back alleys, back rooms, big parties, magnificent whores and equally magnificent blackmails.  It almost becomes the “real” war of which the news-war is only the surface expression.”

American officers of OSS Detachment 101

The chances for honest-to-God peace in China seemed almost impossible.  Even with the European part of the war officially over, the action in the CBI seemed to be amplifying.  Paul Child wrote home to his twin brother Charles in dismay, “Building up, plans for months ahead, materials and personnel being striven for and allocated, and anticipated dangers faced.  Perhaps you will never know what it is to feel profoundly lonely.  Well, you become empty, unbased and bereft.”

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Military Humor – 

Roundup’s staff cartoonist, Sgt. Ralph J. Somerville, was so overjoyed on V-E Day that he sat right down and drew up this cartoon of the situation in which Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito find themselves. Of course, as nay fool can plainly see, there isn’t but one title for this: Two off their War Horses and One on His Ass.

Bulletin Board: “There will be absolutely no more experiments in jet propulsion with company vehicles!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elmer Brown – Orlando, FL; US Navy, WWII, Lt.Commander (Ret. 30 y.)

Arthur Kelm-Gelien (Tab Hunter) – San Francisco, CA; US Coast Guard, (actor)

Saman Kunan – Roi Et, THAI; Thai Navy SEAL, Cave rescue

Cidon Long – Anson, TX; US Army, WWII, homefront German POW guard

Joseph Maciel – South Gate, CA; US Army, Afghanistan, Cpl., 1/28/3rd Infantry Division, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, KIA

Helen Miller – St. Paul, MN; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO

George Ritter – Toledo, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Robert Sutcliffe – Lynbrook, NY; US Navy, WWII

Deisel Tykeson – Ross, ND; US Army, WWII, PTO

Harrison Ward – Lenoir, NC; US Army, WWII, Bronze Star

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PERSONAL NOTE:  My internet was cut-off this morning, hence the late post and lack of visits to your sites.  I will make every attempt this afternoon to correct this.  I thank you in advance for your patience.

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CBI Theater – May 1945

B-24 Liberator, “Black Magic”, 7th Bomb Group

Outstanding mission of the period was a record bridge-busting jaunt by B-24’s of the Seventh Bomb Group, which destroyed or damaged 37 rail and road spans on the Burma-Siam railroad east of Thanbyuzayat. The Japs have been using rail cars with special auxiliary wheels which can leave the bombed-out trackbed and use the highways, and pilots reported seeing several of these, some of them directing machine gun fire at the attackers.

B-29, WWII

HEADQUARTERS, XX BOMBER COMMAND, INDIA – (UP) – Administering treatment prescribed by a medical officer by radio at this headquarters, two crew members of a B-29 returning from a raid on Japanese-occupied Burma saved the life of a third member of the crew.
When the crew member was seriously wounded by shell fire over the target, Sgt. Patsy J. Grimaldi of Brooklyn, radioed the following message to his base:
“Wounded man on board. Shot in neck. Can’t move right arm. Think collar bone broken. Advise if possible.” The radioed pulse and respiration reports continued every ten minutes during the ship’s return trip. An ambulance met the plane at the airstrip and the injured airman was rushed to a hospital where he is now recovering.
Sgt. Grimaldi, who is a member of the Billy Mitchell Group, Twentieth Bomber Command, sent back the messages as well as rendering first aid. A tactical mission report said he “is to be commended on the manner in which he discharged his duties under a trying situation.”

A XX BOMBER BASE, INDIA – The navigator who called calmly over the interphone to ask for certain information received as an answer, “Hell, I couldn’t piece these maps together if I wanted to.”
The answer came from Lt. Harold Vicory of Greenleaf, Kans., 23-year-old radio officer aboard a B-29 Super-Fortress who fortunately was not working with his legs crossed during a mission over Jap-occupied Singapore.
“Enemy fir was very thick,” said Vicory. “The Japs were really peppering us. I was at my desk with a packet of maps and charts when gunfire pierced the belly of the plane, zipped right between my legs, up through the top of the desk, through the maps, and shot out the top of the plane. It all happened pretty fast.”
After he had collected his wits, Vicory examined his maps to discover that the Malay Peninsula had disappeared in thin air.
“They wiped themselves off the map and didn’t know it,” he exclaimed. “And just about that time, the navigator called back and wanted me to give him some information.”

WACs in the CBI

WACS IN THE CBI

The War Department announced this week that 15,546 WAC’s of the Corps’ total strength of 94,000 are serving overseas, including 334 in India and Ceylon.
Other distribution includes, European Theater – 7,030; Southwest Pacific, including Australia, New Guinea, Dutch East Indies and Philippines – 5,255; Italy – 1,612; Guam and Hawaii – 206; Africa and Egypt – 596; Alaska – 103; and Bermuda, Labrador and British Columbia – 394.

Here are two Americans rescued by the 14th Army near Pegu after having been POWs in the hands of the Japanese. At left, Lt. Allan D. DuBose, of San Antonio, Tex., finds it’s the same old Army as he “smilingly” absorbs a shot from Sgt. Orlando Roberto of the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta. After 18 months as a prisoner in Rangoon, DuBose finds that times change, but not the Army. And at right, Maj. Wesley Werner of St. Louis, happily quaffs his first bottle of beer at the same hospital in Calcutta. Werner had been a prisoner of the Nips since November 17, 1942. A former pilot with the old Seventh Bomb Group he is remembered by old timers in the Theater as the skipper of the noted B-24 Rangoon Rambler. Werner was one of the best known airmen in the 10th Air Force.

CALCUTTA – Happiest group of American soldiers in the India-Burma Theater this week were 73 prisoners of war liberated by the British 14th Army near Pegu on their drive to Rangoon.
The first group of recaptured American prisoners, mostly Air Corps personnel, was recuperating in 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta – with American beer, cigarettes, good food, candy bars, fruit juice, newspapers, magazines and everything possible that Army authorities and Red Cross would provide comfort.

Behind them was a grim memory of starvation, filth, disease and indignities administered by the Japanese to the “special treatment” group composed of flyers captured after the bombing of the Japanese homeland began.

The rescued men will also never forget the forced march out of their prison stronghold in Rangoon to north of Pegu where their Japanese guards deserted in the face of bullets and sound of artillery of the advancing 14th Army.
Two airmen, Lt. Kenneth F. Horner, New Orleans, and Pfc. Smith W. Radcliff, Dexter, Kans., had been prisoners for nearly 35 months; many others had sweated out their return since the fall of ’43 and only two of the recaptured prisoners had been missing since this year.

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Military Humor – C.B.I. style – 

“IS THERE REALLY A COSTUME PARTY AT THE RED CROSS TONIGHT?!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

George Bezecny – brn: CZECH; British information Service & US Army Intelligence Div. / USMC

Donald Gillis – Cancouver, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

William Hare Jr. – Sylacauga, AL; US Army, WWII, ETO

Ray Jones – Chesterfield, MO; US Air Force, Sgt.

Eleanor Kruger – Pottsville, PA; civilian, War Department, decoder

Arthur Mulroy – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, Korea & Cuban Missile Crisis, USS Antietam

John Peter Jr. – Swansea, IL; US Army, 11th Airborne Division, medic

Gary Riggins – Sawyer, KS; US Army, WWII, Engineer Corps

Michael Sklarsky – Bristol, FL; US Air Force (25 y.)

Homer Waybright – Fayetteville, NC; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt. Major (Ret.)

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11th Airborne Division, May 1945

Japanese Army areas of responsibility, WWII

Shobu Group had lost one of the three legs of its defensive triangle, but the battle on northern Luzon was far from over. Until the end of the war, Sixth Army forces continued to push Gen. Yamashita’s men farther into the mountains, taking heavy casualties in the process. The 32d Division, which had also seen heavy fighting on Leyte, was worn down to almost nothing, but the defenders suffered even heavier battle casualties as well as losses to starvation and disease.  By the end of the war, the Japanese were still holding out in the rugged Asin Valley of the Sierra Madre in north-central Luzon, enduring the drenching summer monsoons.

1 May 1945, the recon platoon found a company-sized unit of the enemy in the 187th’s zone of responsibility. The 2d battalion, along with 81mm mortars and LMGs (light machine guns) spread out to attack the enemy on three sides. F Company had a kill count of 92 Japanese versus one man of theirs missing the following day. From 3 May on, the fighting was considerable. 10 May, with the situation easing, the division left the area to be patrolled by Filipino guerrillas and was once again united and prepared to set up their base camp among the ruins of Lipa.

Lipa, Luzon ruins, WWII

During the month of May, a new T O & E (Table of Organization and Equipment) was put into effect as replacements finally arrived. A battalion was added to each glider regiment. The 188th Infantry and the 674th Field Artillery became parachute units. The 472d Field Artillery Battalion was added to Division Artillery and the 187th became a Para-Glider Infantry Regiment. For the first time since their creation, the 11th A/B totalled 12,000 men.

7 May 1945, the war in Europe was over, the famous V-E Day, and the men of the 11th Airborne were very happy for their counterparts in the ETO, but they knew the Japanese would remain solid and faithful in their convictions. The fighting in the Pacific would continue, it was a matter of honor. My father, Smitty, had told me of the hatred the G.I.s felt for the enemy and granted, he wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of getting shot at, but he said he had to have respect for their patriotism and tenacity. (Yamato damashii – Japanese spirit and Bushido – the way of the warrior.)  Now, the troopers began to wonder if they would receive ample reinforcements. Rumors began to fly.

Gen. Yamashita Tomoyuki

10 May, the 11th A/B Division regrouped outside Lipa.  If a soldier was not at an outpost or out on patrol, he was helping to build a camp in the coconut groves with those all too familiar pyramidal tents.  Bamboo and steel matting was used to raise the tents up about a foot since it was about to become rainy season once again.  Between two mountains, USO shows and movies began to arrive and a jump school and glider classes were held for the “green” replacements.

11 May, was the first span of 24 hours in a total of 101 days that no one from the 11th Airborne Division had killed one of the enemy. Their average before that had been 93.8 Japanese per day and during that time General Swing was unable to afford even one company to be in reserve.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Pete Acuff – Olvey, AR; US Army, WWII,  driver

Stewart Barnett – AUS; D COY 4 RARNZ Battalion, Pvt. # 5715206, Vietnam, KIA

Clifford Doer – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO & Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Harlan Ellison – Cleveland, OH; US Army / (sci-fi author)

David Franklin – Lake Worth, FL; USMC

Larry Hickman – Winston-Salem, NC; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Robert Keown – Decatur, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 2nd LT., P-38 pilot, KIA

Brian Monks – Hampton, NZ; INZ Regiment, Vietnam, Colonel # 35187

Lawrence Sweet – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

George VanArsdale – Hugo, CO; US Navy, WWII

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Okinawa Kamikaze story

This is an odd story that involves a flight instructor, his family, and a single-minded request. The whole thing was so strange, in fact, that the Japanese government censored it at the time.

Hajime Fujii was born on August 30, 1915, in Ibaraki Prefecture as the oldest of seven children. He joined the army and proved to be such a skilled machine gunner that they sent him to China.

Hajime Fujii

The Chinese weren’t too happy about that, which is why Fujii got hit by a mortar shell that wounded his left hand. Sent to the hospital, he was tended to by Fukuko – a beautiful field nurse from Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture.

It was love at first sight. Back then, arranged marriages were the norm, but the two were having none of it. So they returned to Japan, got married, and had two adorable daughters – Kazuko and Chieko.

Instead of sending him back to China, the Army kept Fujii in Japan and sent him to the Army Air Corps Academy where he graduated in 1943. Becoming a company commander with the Kumagaya Army Aviation School in Kaitama, Fujii was tasked with teaching his students character and mental discipline.

This included inculcating them with a deep sense of loyalty and patriotism and the value of crashing one’s plane into enemy ships and camps. According to his few surviving students, he frequently told them that he would die with them if he could.

But he couldn’t. The mortar shell didn’t take out his left hand, but it left him unable to grip a plane’s control stick. So the more he expressed his desire to die with his students (many of whom went on to do just that), the more the whole thing bothered him.

Kamikaze pilot

Japan didn’t enter WWII with any intention of creating kamikaze pilots and sending them on suicide missions. But it had expected a quick victory.  By 1944, Japan knew it was in serious trouble. Many of its veterans were gone, and many of those sent out never made it back. Desperate, the Army created Special Attack Force Units called tokkōtai or shimbu-tai – suicide squads made up of the Army and Navy.

Fujii’s favorite motto was: “words and deeds should be consistent.” So after months of telling his students to kill themselves by crashing into the enemy, he wanted to do the same by joining the kamikaze.  Unfortunately for him, he was a victim of his own success. Popular with his students and staff, and having proven his worth in China, the Army refused his request. They also cited the fact that he was a family man, while most of those they sent on one-way missions were single.

Kamikaze

Fukuko also pleaded with him to stay out of the war. He had two young daughters, after all. If he died, what would happen to them?  But as more and more of his students left on suicide missions never to return, Fujii couldn’t shake off the idea that he was betraying his wards. He felt like a hypocrite, which is why he again appealed to the Army to let him die. They refused his second request.

So now Fukuko was trapped. If Fujii stayed in Japan, she’d have her husband, while her daughters would have a father. But he would forever be haunted by his self-perceived betrayal of his students and his country.  He would become a ghost (“dim spirit” in Japanese), only half alive. At best, he’d just fade away. At worst, he’d eventually blame his wife and children for his dishonor.

So on the morning of December 14, 1944, while her husband was away at Kumagaya, Fukuko dressed herself up in her finest kimono. She did the same with three-year-old Kazuko and one-year-old Chieko. Finally, she wrote her husband a letter, urging him to do his duty to the country and not to worry about his family. They’d wait for him.


Then she wrapped Chieko up in a cloth backpack and strapped the baby to her back. Taking Kazuko by the hand, she walked toward the Arakawa River near the school where her husband taught. Taking a rope, she tied Kazuko’s wrist to her own and jumped into the freezing waters.

The police found the bodies later that morning, and Fujii was brought to the spot as they were being laid out. The following evening, he painted a letter to his oldest daughter, begging her to take care of her mother and younger sister till he could join them.

Then he performed yubitsume (cut off his pinky finger). With his own blood, he painted his third appeal to the Army.
On February 8, 1945, Fujii became the commander of the 45th Shinbu Squadron – which he named Kaishin (cheerful spirit). Just before dawn on May 28, the nine planes headed to Okinawa, each carrying a pilot and gunner. To their delight, they came upon the USS Drexler and USS Lowry.

USS Drexler

Two slammed into the Drexler, sinking her within minutes and taking out 158 of its crew. Fuji was in one of them. He was reunited with his family.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Helen Boling – KS & CO; US Army nurse, WWII

Donald Goodbrand – W.Palm Beach, FL; USMC

Wayne ‘Bubba’ Harland – Washington, DC; USMC, Korea & Vietnam

Richard ‘Old Man’ Harrison – Danville, VA; US Navy, Petty Officer 1st Class, USS Chowanoc (Ret. 20 y.) /  “Pawn Stars”

Charlene Kvapil – Middletown, OH; civilian employee US Navy Bureau of Ships, WWII

Stanley Maizey – Cornubia, AUS; Australian Army

Robert Sykes – Rochester, NY; US Navy, WWII / Korea, Chief Engineer, USS Ingraham

Newton Sloat – Concho, OK; US Army, 503rd/11th Airborne Division

Leo ‘Fox’ Stewart – Menagha, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Jane Tomala – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy WREN, WWII

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Home Front – Missouri POW’s

The main camps supported a number of branch camps, which were used to put POWs where their labor could be best utilized.

As author David Fiedler explained in his book “The Enemy Among Us: POWs in Missouri During World War II,” the state was once home to more than 15,000 German and Italian prisoners of war (POW).

Many of the camps where they were held have faded into distant memory as little evidence remains of their existence; however, one local resident has a relic from a former POW camp that provides an enduring connection to the service of a departed relative.

“Established at Weingarten, a sleepy little town on State Highway 32 between Ste. Genevieve and Farmington, Missouri, (Camp Weingarten) had no pre-war existence,” wrote Fiedler. The author further explained, “The camp was enlarged to the point that some 5,800 POWs could be held there, and approximately 380 buildings of all types would be constructed on an expanded 950-acre site.”

Camp Weingarten quickly grew into a sprawling facility to house Italian POWs brought to the United States and, explained Jefferson City resident Carolyn McDowell, was the site where one of her uncles spent his entire period of service with the U.S. Army in World War II.

Working POWs earned 80 cents a day and could buy beer at the canteens.

“My mother’s brother, Dwight Hafford Taylor, was raised in the community of Alton in southern Missouri,” said McDowell. “His hometown really wasn’t all that far from Camp Weingarten,” she added.

Although her uncle passed away in 1970, records accessed through the National Archives and Records Administration indicate he was drafted into the U.S. Army and entered service at Jefferson Barracks on November 10, 1942.  After completing his initial training, he was designated as infantry and became a clerk with the 201st Infantry Regiment.

Shortly after Taylor received assignment to Camp Weingarten, Italian prisoners of war began to arrive at the camp in May 1943. Despite the challenges of overseeing the internment of former enemy soldiers, the camp experienced few security incidents and conditions remained rather cordial, in part due to the sustenance given the prisoners.

There were four main base camps, each holding between 2,000 and 5,000 POWs.

It was noted that many of the Italians were “semi-emaciated” when arriving in the United States because of a poor diet. The Chicago Tribune reported on October 23, 1943, that the prisoners at Camp Weingarten soon “put on weight” by eating a “daily menu … superior to that of the average civilian.”

Pfc. Taylor and his fellow soldiers, most of whom were assigned to military police companies, maintained a busy schedule of guarding the prisoners held in the camp, but also received opportunities to take leave from their duties and visit their loved ones back home.

“During one of my uncle’s visits back to Alton, he asked his mother for an aluminum pie pan,” said McDowell. “He then took it back to camp with him and that’s when he gave it to one of the Italian POWs.”

Cigarette case cover

When returning to camp, one of the POWs with whom Taylor had established a friendship was given the pie pan and used it to demonstrate his abilities as an artist and a craftsman by fashioning it into a cigarette case. The case not only had a specially crafted latching mechanism, but was also etched with an emblem of an eagle on the cover with barracks buildings and a guard tower from the camp inscribed upon the inside.

“My uncle then gave the cigarette case as a gift to my father, who was living in Jefferson City at the time and working as superintendent of the tobacco factory inside the Missouri State Penitentiary,” stated McDowell. “It is a beautifully crafted cigarette case, but the irony of it all is that my father never smoked,” she jokingly added.

Inside of the case.

As McDowell went on to explain, her uncle remained at Camp Weingarten until his discharge from the U.S. Army in December 1944. The following October, the former POW camp was closed and many of the buildings were dismantled, shipped and reassembled as housing for student veterans at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

In the years after the war, McDowell said, her mother kept the cigarette case tucked away in a chest of drawers but since both of her parents have passed, she now believes the historical item should be on display in a museum.

Italian POWs

Little remains of the once sprawling POW camp located approximately 90 miles south of St. Louis, with the exception of a stone fireplace that was part of the Officer’s Club.  McDowell notes the cigarette case is not only a beautiful piece that serves as a link to the past, but represents a story to be shared of the state’s rich military legacy.

“I will someday donate the cigarette case to a museum for preservation and display, and I believe my brother, Harold McDowell, would agree. However, I want to ensure it is recognized for the treasure that it is and it is not simply thrown away,” said McDowell. “That’s why I want to tell the story of its creation … its history, so that its association to Camp Weingarten is never forgotten.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Wishing all in New Zealand a memorable Maori New Year!

 

 

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Bealle – Tuscaloosa, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, P-47 pilot

Percival Blows (100) – Summerset Karaka, NZ; RNZ Army #20590, WWII, 21st Battalion

David Chappell – Pueblo, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea

Murray Fromson – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, Korea, Stars and Stripes journalist

Robert Greer – Stanford, KY; US Army, 11th A/B & 82nd A/B Divisions

Melvin Korman – Providence, RI; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt.

L.G. ‘Butch’ Lemons – Phoenix, AZ; USMC, WWII, SSgt.

Donald McIntyre – Tauranga, NZ; RNZ Army # 388853, WWII, Maj. (Ret.), 7th Rajput Reg, So. Lancaster Reg.,Royal West African Frontier Force Intelligence Corps

John Strouf – Altoona, IA; US Army, WWII

Byron Wrenn – St. Helens, OR; US Navy, WWII & Korea

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IJN Yamato

IJN Yamato

By early 1945, Japan’s strategic situation was grim. Japanese conquests in the Pacific had been steadily rolled back since the Allied landings on Guadalcanal in August 1942. The Philippines, Solomons, Gilberts and Carolines had all been lost and the enemy was now literally at the gates. Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyu island chain was the last bastion before the Home Islands itself. The island was just 160 miles from the mainland city of Kagoshima, coincidentally the birthplace of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

 From: Kyle Mizokami

In early 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy made a difficult decision: it would sacrifice the largest, most powerful battleships ever built to protect Okinawa, the gateway to Japan’s Home Islands. The decision sealed the fate of the battleship Yamato and its crew, but ironically did nothing to actually protect the island from Allied invasion.

Yamato under construction

The battleship Yamato was among the largest and most powerful battleships of all time. Yamato has reached nearly mythical status, a perfect example of Japan’s fascination with doomed, futile heroics. Built in 1937 at the Kure Naval Arsenal near Hiroshima, it was constructed in secrecy to avoid alarming the United States. Japan had recently withdrawn from the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited battleship tonnages, and was free to build them as large as it wanted.

Unfortunately for Yamato and its crew, it was obsolete by the time it was launched in 1941. The ability of fast aircraft carriers to engage enemy ships at the range of their embarked dive and torpedo bombers meant a carrier could attack a battleship at ranges of two hundred miles or more, long before it entered the range of a battleship’s guns. Battleships were “out-sticked,” to use a modern term.

At 0800 hours on April 7, scout planes from Admiral Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Force, or Task Force 58, located IJN Yamato, still only halfway to Okinawa. Mitscher launched a massive strike force of 280 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, and the fight was on.

IJN Yamato

For two hours, the Surface Special Attack Force was subjected to a merciless aerial bombardment. The air wings of 11 fleet carriers joined in the attack—so many planes were in the air above Yamato that the fear of midair collision was real. The naval aviators were in such a hurry to score the first hit on the allegedly unsinkable ship plans for a coordinated attack collapsed into a free-for-all. Yamato took two hits during this attack, two bombs and one torpedo, and air attacks claimed two escorting destroyers.

A second aerial armada consisting of one hundred aircraft pressed the attack. As the Yamato started to go down, U.S. naval aviators changed tactics. Noticing the ship was listing badly, one squadron changed its torpedo running depth from ten feet—where it would collide with the main armor belt—to twenty feet, where it would detonate against the exposed lower hull. Aboard Yamato, the listing eventually grew to more than twenty degrees, and the captain made the difficult decision to flood the starboard outer engine room, drowning three hundred men at their stations, in an attempt to trim out the ship.

Yamato in battle, artist unknown

Yamato had taken ten torpedoes and seven bomb hits, and was hurting badly. Despite counterflooding, the ship continued to list, and once it reached thirty five degrees the order was given to abandon ship. The captain and many of the bridge crew tied themselves to their stations and went down with their ship, while the rest attempted to escape.

At 14:23, it happened. Yamato’s forward internal magazines detonated in a spectacular fireball. It was like a tactical nuclear weapon going off. Later, a navigation officer on one of Japan’s surviving destroyers calculated that the “pillar of fire reached a height of 2,000 meters, that the mushroom-shaped cloud rose to a height of 6,000 meters.” The flash from the explosion that was Yamato’s death knell was seen as far away as Kagoshima on the Japanese mainland. The explosion also reportedly destroyed several American airplanes observing the sinking.

Yamato at the end, artist unknown

When it was all over, the Surface Special Attack Force had been almost completely destroyed. Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi and three destroyers were sunk. Several other escorts had been seriously damaged. Gone with the great battleship were 2,498 of its 2,700-person crew.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frank Beasley – Athens, OH; US Navy, corpsman

Ainslie Boyd – Marlborough, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7544, WWII & Vietnam, K Force

Francis Drake Jr. – Springfield, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

David Douglas Duncan (102) – Kansas City, MO; US Army, WWII, PTO, combat photographer / Civilian, Korea & Vietnam Wars, Life Mag. photographer

Donald Freeman – Mobile, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division

Howie Judd – Rensselaer, NY; CIA (Ret.)

Harvel Moore –  Chatham, LA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

James Robinson – Leavenworth, KS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Mustin

Dee (Berglin) Robinson – Fairmount, ND; VA hospital nurse, WWII

Robert Southall – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII

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HAVING TROUBLE DEALING WITH MONDAY?

HAVE A GREAT DAY, FOLKS!!

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